Businesses reopen their doors after almost 2 months

It  may take between 6 and 12 months before demand recovery is on a firmer footing and global supply chain adjust to new normal

by NUR HANANI AZMAN/ pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

MANY Malaysians enjoyed a taste of freedom yesterday as the government eased the strict Movement Control Order (MCO) for the first time in almost two months.

People started to move about to complete certain tasks and businesses after being cocooned in their house for more than eight weeks.

A large crowd was seen at Pos Malaysia Bhd’s branches, while others used the end of the curfew to visit malls and shopping centres. Consumers were also seen making a beeline at pawn shops.

More vehicles were seen on the road and highways as the government allowed almost all business activities to resume operation under the Conditional MCO (CMCO). National news agency Bernama reported that traffic volume in Kuala Lumpur jumped nearly 30% compared to Sunday.

Despite the leniency, businesses were operating under very strict standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Retail workers are checked to ensure they do not pose a health threat to consumers. A photo taken in front of the Kenanga Wholesale City in Pudu, Kuala Lumpur, showed over 50 workers waiting to have their temperature checked before they were allowed into the building.

Most businesses and manufacturers also opened their gates to workers and consumers.

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) said factories are operating under a very controlled environment and a strict adherence to the SOPs, especially on social distancing, sanitisation, disinfecting work-spaces and daily temperature and health checks.

“With these strict SOPs in place, employers would be able to ensure early detection of any abnormal cases and have them tested and treated, as well as provide contact tracing details of affected workers to the authorities,” FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Some manufacturers also implemented Business Continuity Planning, including expanding flexible work arrangements, maintaining social distancing and other policies.

AEON Co (M) Bhd CEO and MD Shafie Shamsuddin said the country is observing “the new normal” customer behaviour and the retail giant has chosen to operate based on the customers’ differences.

“We have different operation hours for different states and demographics.”

AEON malls in Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru will operate between 12pm and 9pm on weekdays and 10am-9pm on weekends, while supermarkets’ operating time will be between 8am and 9pm.

“We are grateful that our tenants (around 50%), who had submitted declaration to open today (Monday), have complied with the SOPs.

“The tenants continue to ensure approximately between 50 and 80 customers for every 1,000 sqm,” he told TMR.

But a few states like Kedah, Sabah, Sarawak and Negri Sembilan had shot down the federal government’s decision to allow most businesses to open yesterday. These states have come up with a more restraint approach over worries that the pandemic would flare up again.

Kenanga Investment Bank Bhd head of economic research Wan Suhaimie Wan Mohd Saidie said the relaxation of the MCO would allow businesses to resume their economic activities, generate revenue and reduce staff layoffs.

He said consumers would also be able to spend to support private consumption.

“Nonetheless, we forecast overall private sector expenditure growth to slow sharply to 0.6% this year from 6.2% in 2019 and below Bank Negara Malaysia’s forecast of 1.1%.

“We maintain our view that private consumption would remain weak in spite of the CMCO as wages and income levels could have fallen sharply,” he said in a note.

Some factories, Wan Suhaimie said, will not operate at full capacity due to the social distancing measures, subsequently disrupting supplies.

“It may take anywhere between six and 12 months before we see demand recovery on a firmer footing and the global supply chain adjusting to the new normal.”